Jenny Badger Sultan: Biography
I grew up in Southern California in an academic family; my father was a chemistry professor at Caltech who also painted watercolors and my mother was a housewife who loved reading and gardening and brought a strong aesthetic appreciation to our lives. Being outdoors and interacting with nature was a constant pleasure.
I loved making art as a child and was very fortunate to be encouraged by my parents and to have a wonderful teacher from the time I was 8 until I was 16. She was Chilean, an artist in her own right, and a pioneer in teaching children. She encouraged experimentation and working from imagination . She often showed us works of art--from cave paintings to Klee, Miro, Picasso--and made us feel that we young people were part of the community of world artists. Art attracted me more than other academic subjects because it was a place to express feelings and the inner life.
I went to Pomona College, a small liberal arts college, rather than art school, because I also enjoyed a wide range of interests and enjoyed friendships with people involved in other disciplines. There were some inspiring teachers at Pomona, though the arts were not given as much respect and space as more academic pursuits.
I went on to graduate school--Columbia University--where I got my MFA degree in 1963. This gave me an opportunity to continue painting and to take in the wonders of the museums and galleries in New York. In graduate school I took an anthropology class with Margaret Mead called Culture and Personality. Picking up on my interests she encouraged me to read Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious and Reik's Listening With the Third Ear. From this time on, ideas about archetypes and the unconscious began to be very important to me.
After graduation I floundered for a number of years, trying to work out how I could support myself and do my art. I returned to California, then moved up to the Bay Area, where I lived a very sparse existence, living on $100 a month in a studio in Berkeley, painting and supporting myself by designing and silk-screening fabrics. I was involved in many things that expanded my interests: therapy, meditation, dream re-entry, active imagination, group visualization, psychic healing, and of course lots of reading.
During this time I realized that the inner world of dreams, visions, symbols and feeling states was the most compelling subject matter for me to express in painting. I joined with other artists to exhibit at the Unicorn Gallery, and was a part of several shows of Visionary Art, including "Twenty-two Visionaries" at the San Francisco Art Festival in 1969. Henry Sultan, an artist who became my lifelong partner and husband, and I began to teach together using our personal approaches to accessing interior material. We called our classes and workshops "New Techniques in Visionary Art."
Other teaching experiences followed. I began teaching part time at City College of SF in 1974. I was also a California Arts Council Artist in the Schools at the alternative school our children attended. I became a full time teacher at City from 1989-2006. I taught Painting, Drawing, Design and Color. Henry and I shared studio space, raised our two children together, and kept painting and exhibiting, as well as working at our various jobs.
Since 1998 we have been able to travel to places which have added to the rich cultural and archetypal imagery that is so nourishing--Malta, Nepal, Egypt, Turkey and Spain.
Our grandson's birth in 2009 has proved to be another mind-expanding experience.
The Unicorn Gallery, on Fillmore Street near Sacramento, was run by Arnold and Joyce Bernhardt from about 1968-1972. Arnold and Joyce were very unique and principled people. They were followers of Science of Mind and knew a lot about astrology and other occult matters. They ran the gallery not as a money-making enterprise, but as a public service, to offer a place for “visionary” artists to show their work and people to see it. There were regular shows and many kinds of other events at the gallery--full-moon meditations, group visualizations, and dream-sharing. It was a gathering place for like-minded artists in an underground movement that has never been recognized by the art establishment. I am very grateful to Arnold and Joyce for what they gave to us during this time.
I am so grateful to Chris Wayan, artist, dreamer, and webmaster, for making this website a reality. His encouragement, insights, and technical expertise were what I needed to manifest something I’d only thought about for a long time.